1. Pac-Man was primarily developed by a young Namco employee named Toru Iwatani. He'd joined the company in 1977 at the tender age of 22, with no qualifications, no formal training in engineering, programming or graphic design, and had no particular interest in video games.
Iwatani had hoped to get into making pinball machines, but discovered that Namco didn't actually produce them! So the company placed him in the design department, and there he proposed a theory. Iwatani wasn’t a fan of 1970s arcades, as he felt they were dirty and smelly. He figured they’d be much nicer places to visit if somebody other than just teenage guys hung out there, so he specifically set out to create a game that would appeal to women and couples.
2. Iwatani figured that women would want a less violent style of gameplay - so not a space war or shooting type of game. He also felt his game needed to be cute and colourful, and that it would need to be based around something women love to do. It's possible that young Iwatani wasn't that clued in on the fairer sex, as in his mind the thing that women loved to do the most was eat!
And so the concept for what was to become Pac-Man was born.
3. Beginning in April 1979, Iwatani and a nine-man team spent almost a year designing the game. When complete it was given the original Japanese title of Pakkuman, inspired by the Japanese onomatopoeic slang phrase paku-paku taberu, where paku-paku describes the sound of the mouth movement when widely opened and then closed in succession.
4. Although Iwatani has repeatedly stated that Pac-Man's shape was inspired by a pizza missing a slice, he admitted in a 1986 interview that this was a half-truth and the character design also came from simplifying and rounding out the Japanese character for mouth, kuchi (口).
5. Released in Japan on May 22nd 1980 under the name Puck Man (as it was also noted that the main character looks a little like a hockey puck), the game was picked up for manufacture in the United States by Bally Midway, and arrived in Western arcades in October of that year. The company chose to change the game's title from Puck Man to Pac-Man in an effort to avoid vandalism from people changing the letter 'P' into an 'F' to form the word fuck!
Come on, don't tell me you wouldn't have been tempted to do that!
6. The ghosts all have unique personalities and strategies they follow, which is pretty impressive for a game released in 1980. The red one, Blinky, will hone in on Pac-Man and chase him. The pink one, naturally named Pinky, will attempt to cut Pac-Man off and ambush him. The orange one, Clyde, will actually run away from Pac-Man if he gets to close. And the light blue one, Inky, will alternate between the strategies of the other three.
In the Japanese release the ghosts were actually named after their personalities - Chaser, Ambusher, Stupid (!) and Fickle.
7. Pac-Man's gameplay can be quite frantic, avoiding those pesky ghosts as they chase you around the maze. But you might not know that there is actually a spot in the maze where you will be totally safe and none of the ghosts will attack you. Just head immediately right and up from the starting position and you are golden...
...So next time you need a bathroom break that's your savior.
8. Pac-Man was hugely successful, with Namco and Midway selling more than 400,000 Pac-Man units, which generated $3.5 billion in revenue in less than a decade. How much of that do you think Toru Iwatani received?
If you guessed zilch you are absolutely correct. Not only did Iwatani not get a cut of the big Pac-Man bucks, but he didn’t even get a raise, a bonus or a congratulatory certificate. As he explained:
"The truth of the matter is, there were no rewards per se for the success of Pac-Man. I was just an employee. There was no change in my salary, no bonus, no official citation of any kind."9. Pac-Man spawned a variety of spin-offs and sequels. Super Pac-Man was Namco’s official follow-up, but probably the most famous was Ms. Pac-Man, which was produced without any input from Namco or Iwatani.
Released in 1981, Ms. Pac-Man was created by General Computer Corporation and features several changes from the original Pac-Man, including faster gameplay, more mazes, new intermissions, and moving bonus items. It was basically just a hack of the original code, but when the makers showed it to Midway they were so impressed they decided to buy the game and put it on the market.
Upon its release Stan Jarocki of Midway delivered a nice bit of 'spin' stating that Ms. Pac-Man was conceived in response to the original Pac-Man being "the first commercial videogame to involve large numbers of women as players" and that it was Midway's "way of thanking all those lady arcaders who have played and enjoyed Pac-Man."
Ms. Pac-Man opened the flood gates and Midway also released Pac-Man Plus, Jr. Pac-Man, Baby Pac-Man and Professor Pac-Man.
Unfortunately whilst they were busy thanking the lady arcaders Midway forgot to ask permission from Namco and found themselves in a whole load of legal trouble, as they didn't own the property. Namco sued, and Midway, having no leg whatsoever to stand on, handed over full rights to Ms. Pac-Man and all the other subsequent Pac-Man titles they produced. Namco then severed all business relations with Midway, and today Namco own Ms. Pac-Man and all the other Pac-titles produced.
10. In 1982 Pac-Man came home. Arriving on the Atari 2600 in a much-maligned port which only somewhat resembled the original and was widely criticized for its flickering ghosts. Despite the negative reviews this version of Pac-Man sold seven million units! And the RRP wast $37.95!!! Ch-ching.
Unsurprisingly, given those figures, Pac-Man holds the record as the best-selling game of all time for the Atari 2600 console.
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